|Once again, I have had many observation sessions over the last couple of weeks. I do not have any new objects to log because I have been working on memorizing the summer sky. I now have 22 summer constellations and 56 deep space objects (a variety of Messier, NGC/IC, and OC) memorized.
The method I use to memorize objects is that I print out star charts, plot the constellations and DSOs, then compare that to Starry Night Pro to make sure I'm correct. If I made a mistake, I'll print another empty chart and start again. I'll do this until I can plot every constellation and DSO I think I know. Then a few days later, I'll do it again for repetition.
At night, I'll try to find the objects I plotted and outline the stars with my green laser. So far it has been a very successful method of memorizing the sky and I have the locations of at least 80% of the objects I have logged on this site committed to memory. If you read down my journal you'll see times that I observe with someone else, with no chart or software, and show them 20 or more DSOs from memory.
I have also been learning these objects by constellation. For instance I know of 9 objects in Ursa Major. There are more than that, but I have 9 memorized. I can point a telescope almost directly to each of them or find them quickly with little searching. If you are curious, the list is: binary Mizar, M40, M81, M82, M97, M101, M106, M108, M109.
There are several things that I attribute to the speed in which I have learned these things.
1) Learning by constellation has helped a great deal. When I was just trying to memorize object locatons before I knew the constellations, it was much more difficult.
2) Living in relatively dark skies. It also helps that I live in the quasi-country where, though faint, I can see the milky way and 10th magnitude galaxies on just about any night. Really dark nights are particularly excellent. I have only been to 3 "dark sites" at this point, so the bulk of what I have logged has been in my backyard.
3) This should probably more like #1, the software tool Starry Night Pro. Without Starry Night, I wouldn't know what's out there.
4) Repetition. Though the sky changes, it doesn't change that much, and it doesn't change that rapidly. The reason why I have no objects to log for this journal entry is simply because I have already logged everything I've been looking at for the last few weeks in past entries. I have merely been repeating what I already know to make sure I have it nailed down in my memory.
The last 8 months has been an absolutely wonderful experience. I'm excited about furthering my knowledge as an amateur astronomer.